Ellington Ratliff: To The Beat of His Own Drum

15th August 2017

At the vivacious age of 24, it is evident that musician Ellington Ratliff is one passionate performer; wise beyond his years. Ratliff, who is currently best known for being the drummer in the American pop rock band R5, continues to make a name for himself with his growing success and notoriety. While he advances his skills, both on- and off-stage, Ratliff took a moment to talk with Candid Magazine to discuss being raised in the City of Angels, happily mixing business with pleasure and revealing his penchant for retro fashion.

Ellington Ratliff, photograph by Valentina Socci

Ellington, that is quite the unique name. Do your friends and family call you by any abbreviations?
There’s been a few unsuccessful attempts at giving me a nickname. The guys in R5 will sometimes call me ‘E' (off of the show Entourage, which Riker, the bassist, is obsessed with) and I started in the band by being named, Ratliff which is my last name, but then I guess nickname, to makes sense of the band name ‘R5’.

When/how did your passion for singing and drumming come about?
I grew up in Los Angeles and did theatre so I guess that is where I obtained my ability to sing. Drumming was a more natural passion out of thin air. In my parents’ eyes I wasn't supposed to be a drummer—I was going to be an actor/dancer, etc. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are supportive of whatever I do, but it obviously took another course when I got into writing music. I’ll still act when I have time in LA but it all depends…

You met your R5 bandmates back in 2009. How have your relationships with one another and your music evolved in the last eight years?
Well, I date one of them now [laughs]. That’s probably the biggest change, but when it comes to the full band it’s pretty effortless to keep things civil. We’re all like-minded for the most part. Musically I believe we have evolved tremendously from our first Release Louder. The main reason being we write everything in-house so we can do what we want without consulting a producer that is only looking to make generic music so they can get a cut on another album. I digress… Although we do still work with our favorite producers from the past here and there.

R5's latest EP New Addictions seems to go a bit deeper than your previous albums. What is the process that you and your bandmates take to create and choose your next tracks?
After touring all over the world last year, we all moved into a house in the valley of Los Angeles. There we created a studio out of the guesthouse and started writing for various projects (a couple movies, other artists, etc.) including the EP New Addictions. For only being in the house for about a year we wrote a hard drive full of songs – the best of which made it onto New Addictions. We are constantly writing. On the last tour we brought our portable studio and wrote in the dressing rooms during what free time we had, so we’ll be releasing whenever we can.

Ellington Ratliff, photograph by Valentina Socci

Since we are a menswear magazine, we must ask how would you describe your fashion sense in 2017? Do you have a go-to fashion accessory you wear when performing on-stage?
I only have one go-to accessory, and that accessory is…drumroll…wait for it… Bolo Ties (cue explosion SFX). I stole one my dad used to wear in the ‘80s. It was an arrowhead with a Buffalo coin on it. Although, I don't like to wear my shirts buttoned all the way up, so I’ll wear the bolo tie more like a necklace. 

Do you pay attention to the trends of other music groups, or do you prefer to stick within the world of R5?
I personally try to encourage ‘keeping our blinders on’ while writing. Nothing is worse than hearing the same sounds or beats on every song on New Music Friday. We look up to those who are successfully changing the game like Calvin Harris with his new stuff, and Childish Gambino. Those who do what others are not and thrive because of it.

Ellington Ratliff, photograph by Valentina Socci

If R5 fans can take anything from your music and lyrics, what do you hope that is?
I hope R5 fans take away from our music what I take away from music in general, which is excitement and inspiration. Nothing is better than feeling inspired from a song. Nothing gets you more pumped at the gym, or more ‘turnt’, if I may, at a party or more relaxed when you want to be at home listening to old records.

When you are not performing or creating new music, what do you like to do for fun?
My girlfriend and I just started renting a house together, so fun is now shopping for furniture at a consignment shop and finding out what flea markets are nearby and going to Whole Foods. I've been trying to get smart and get into reading, but at the end of a long day it’s hard to choose a book when the new season of Game of Thrones is on.
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